Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014-2015 Curriculum Choices

This year I have a 6th grader, 1st grader, preschooler, and toddler.

To recap: 

Our 6th grader, now going by her new chosen name of "Ana" (pronounced like the girl from Frozen...those of you who know how I feel about Frozen can feel free to laugh now) is being adopted this month *God-willing*. She is 12 and is hearing impaired and has other specific learning disabilities, likely including dyslexia, that we're hoping to uncover soon so we can figure out how best to help her learn. So that affects her curriculum choices.

Our 1st grader, Tobias, is 6 and extremely academic. He'll be working ahead in most subjects per usual. 

Our preschooler, Peter, turns 4 in November and so far doesn't even know his letters. This will be his first year being included in homeschooling because last year he begged for his own books. So to keep him from stealing big brother's math workbooks I'm getting him some stuff of his own :)

Our toddler, Tahlia, turns 2 in November, which basically means her entire purpose in life has become to make messes, climb on things, distract us, beg for food, and generally remind us that obviously she is far more important than silly things like multiplication tables.

So here is what we're doing this year:

Ana: Orton-Gillingham Reading and Spelling (last year we used Barton program, which I highly recommend but which is outside our budget this year). I'll be pulling from Barton's free online practice pages, Wilson Readers, the Solving Language Difficulties book, and Fran Bowman's O-G system

*I have a computer program that allows me to make my own handwriting worksheets*
Ana: cursive practice pages
Tobias: d'nealian practice pages

Ana: DynamoMaths, a computer-based remedial math program to help number sense in students, particularly those with dyscalculia. Then she will move on to Math Mammoth 2 or Math Mammoth 3, depending on how far DynamoMaths gets her.

ALL: Catholic Heritage Curricula's Explore the Continents and Map Skills B

ALL: Weekly Unit Studies covering volcanoes, weather, and habitats. We're mostly using the Let's Read and Find Out Science series of books and The Magic Schoolbus DVD's and science observation notebooks


I'm keeping everything for this year on one shelf in the homeschool room. Each child also has a binder for the current school year and a binder for their previous years' records. That's where I keep important things from previous school district portfolios, assessments, Ana's old school grades, etc.

If you want to check out what other homeschoolers are using for curriculum this year, check out the ihomeschool network's 6th Annual (Not) Back to School Blog Hop.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Catholic Kid Problems...

Apparently Tobias doesn't know what to do with himself when there are no babies in the house or on the way. Tahlia is 20 months so this is officially the longest we've ever gone without being pregnant since our marriage! Crazy! It kinda comes with the Irish Catholic territory I guess (not that I look Irish but I promise I am underneath my few but dominant Native American genes). As far as he knows we have a baby every other fall. But no baby this fall...

So he improvised and found his own baby sister(s). Yes, the baby sister needed a baby sister so he is carrying around two of Tahlia's dolls. Haha! At first he was just cuddling with one, not unusual around here with Tahlia doing that a lot, but then I caught him tossing one gently in the air and proclaiming 'you're so cute!' to it. It was so sweet. Since then the baby took a nap upstairs, had some milk, ate a pretend grilled cheese sandwich, and had it's picture taken. Aside from the grilled cheese that sounds about right :) 

He named the first one Rachel and the second Gracelyn. I think he got bored while Rachel was upstairs napping, hence him digging the second baby out of the toy basket and dubbing her Gracelyn, Rachel's little sister. Apparently he is the dad, Daisy is the mom, Peter and Tahlia are the big brother and sister, and Kyle and I are grandparents. Haha! I'm babysitting right now while he's outside wandering around with a big stick, very important little boy work! 

Oops, now he's moved on to riding his scooter with squirtgun in hand to protect the homestead...

It's so sweet to watch him, and I love seeing him be imaginative. This kid had no imagination for years but the older he gets the more it finally kicks in. Peter and Tahlia are both extra imaginative so they help I think. 

Because Tobias is smart a lot of people assume he'll be an engineer or a doctor or lawyer. But at six, as of right now, he wants to be a Daddy and grow flowers. 

And those sound like fine aspirations to us!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Homeschool Planning

It's my favorite time of year...lesson planning time! We are starting school this coming Monday and I'm frantically finishing last minute planning. 

This is what it looks like around here...

I have all my necessary components for planning... my new planner (details about that and the 2014-2015 Catholic Planner later), laptop, Pinterest boards, curriculum instructor guides, binders, favorite pens, a coke, and of course a feline friend to supervise the proceedings.

I've had podcasts going regularly lately, everything from Sarah's Read Aloud Revival podcast to the ihomeschool network google hangouts and Susan Wise Bauer's audio recordings of her talks on Writing and Homeschooling the Real Child. Lots of great inspiration there! 

I've marked out our start date, end dates, and breaks. We'll be taking 2 weeks off at Christmas and 2 weeks off for Holy Week and Easter. I much prefer a couple real holiday breaks and to not have random Mondays or Fridays off throughout the year for minor holidays. I'm looking forward to use those minor holidays to study specific people and events, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Saint Patrick, etc. 

Now I'm finishing filling in the specific curriculum plans. The homeschool room is all set to go and even better than last year. I'll be sharing our curriculum choices and homeschool room in August along with the ihomeschool network's Back to Home School blog hop. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Urban Farming on a Cool Morning

I am LOVING this cool weather in the middle of July! My friends and neighbors are grumbling but secretly I'm praying it stays this cool all the way until autumn really starts! 

We spent this morning working hard outside, my favorite thing to do honestly. I should love to cook or something but I'm much happier outside chasing toddlers and chickens. I did a lot of both this morning :)

I went to feed and water the chickens but then I realized their coop was very dirty so I scooped out all the shavings and replaced them with fresh ones. I also sprayed out the nesting boxes since one had completely flooded. We're having a leaking issue in just this one spot in the coop, we'll have to sort that out before the fall rains begin in earnest. 

It's right here at this side door...

I'm pretty sure the door itself is the weak spot. On an unrelated note, this is how we've balanced having backyard chickens in the city. We keep the rake, scooper, and extra shavings here under the nesting boxes. That's why the door is so big. It's discreet, compact, and keeps everything handy since we don't have a garage or shed.

We keep the feed in a tin container on the porch. Again, discreet but out in the open where the kids can even refill the chicken's food themselves. 

Since I was on a roll I also raked out the run. We added sand once the grass was eaten down and that's been immensely cleaner. If you just rake it up once or twice a week it looks all clean and nice and chicken poop doesn't sit collecting flies. Raking it up let's everything compost nicely into the ground more quickly.

The hens hated it at first though, Oh my gosh! They clucked loudly to show their disapproval of our addition to their run and stayed inside the coop in protest for a full three days! It was the craziest thing I'd ever seen, the silly animals! But now they have no problem and thoroughly enjoy the dust bath potential in that corner by the ladder. 

I love our chickens, we were nervous that they'd be obnoxious or a lot of work but the whole family loves having them. Our neighbors tell us they like watching them and the local kids come over to see them almost daily. I'd say chickens are more work than a cat but less than a dog. Plus...eggs!

(The chocolate colored one is Raven's, the speckled one is Splash's. And Raven was clucking as I was cleaning the coop so I bet she's laid another by now. They like to proudly announce it when they've laid an egg)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The preschoolers have taken over...

Tahlia and Peter are better than a tv for entertainment. These two crack me up daily. 

Tahlia is such a girl. She has these little hidey holes all over the house where she'll gather her baby dolls and toys and sit for an hour contentedly. One of her favorites is to sit under the side table in the living room with her legs under the cross-beams, using them as a table. Sometimes she just uses the cross-beams as a seat. But she got very mad the other day when Tobias and Peter tried to crawl in there with her, haha!

Another of Tahlia's favorite places to play is in the cabinets. This weekend I heard lip smacking and sucking sounds so I went to go investigate...

She had discovered the brown sugar and was happily eating it..

When I found her she was totally remorseless, she clapped her hands and grinned at me as if to tell me all about this delicious powdered sweet stuff she discovered. She thought she was mighty clever...and I kind of agree. 

The day before that she and Peter played an interesting version of Trouble. And then it devolved into putting the pieces on their fingers and clacking them together. Hasn't everybody done this at some point? I know we did as kids too, haha!

And Peter is just being so.....Peter. There's no other word for it, everyone knows Peter is just himself. Sweet, goofy, right-brained, imaginative, athletic, and completely baffling. He also loves animals, like a lot. He only likes black animals...I think he may be racist ;) just kidding, but yes he really does have a distinct preference for black animals. When we got him a guinea pig last year for his birthday he desperately wanted a black guinea pig, only a black one. So we found one and he promptly named her 'Black' but the other kids didn't think that was a real name so they named her Jelly Bean. He insists her name is Black Jelly Bean, it even says so on her vet records :) When we replaced two of our lost hens we looked specifically for a black one for him. I wanted a pretty New Hampshire Red but we found his black Maran hen and her splash-colored Maran hen companion first. So now we have Raven and Splash.  Raven is his and he gets mad when the leghorns eat the grass he feeds them because he intended it to go to Raven. 

He also wants two black goats. Yeah, he belongs on a farm for sure!

Coincidentally our tuxedo cat Kaiden is our most kid-friendly. He lets kids do anything to him. Including, as Peter has recently discovered, pick him up around the stomach and carry him around. 

And Tahlia? Well she just likes to hang out with her baby dolls, or other people's baby dolls, whatever...

Never a dull moment, and now you have a glimpse of why I haven't had time for blogging this summer. But school is about to start and these kids are about to get back on schedule, no more climbing in bed with mom and dad at 6am, no more wandering the house seeking destruction or playing with toilet water when mommy's back is turned :) 

It's lesson planning time and organizing time, two of my favorite things! I have exciting plans for this school year and I'll be back, likely tomorrow, with a lesson planning post. I think I'll be participating in the ihomeschool network's Back To Home School blog hop too. Anyone else doing that? I love getting a peek at other people's curriculum choices and learning spaces!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Last Thursday Kyle was asked to resign from his job at the church and he did. We're relieved to be done but on the other hand we had of course hoped to find a new job first. He has severance so we're okay through Christmas and we're just praying he finds a new job before then.  

It's been a very stressful week. I'm working on cutting the budget where I can. A/C is off for the rest of the summer, Kyle's going to hang a clothesline for me, and all extra activities are on hold. 

Luckily Pennsylvania still has some cheap entertainment available this time of year. Like blueberry picking!

After we picked (and ate) lots of blueberries we brought them home to freeze. 


We're spending lots of time outside lately, and the fantastic cool weather is definitely helping! 

Our chickens are doing great and our two older ones are laying a consistent 4-5 eggs a week each. Our younger hens aren't laying yet but they give good hugs so we forgive them that :)

We're praying my husband gets a new job soon with decent pay and a regular schedule. He's not looking at taking another call as a pastor for many reasons so this means a career change as well. We think this will all work out for the best in the end.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

We've been having a fun summer since returning to Pennsylvania from our two big trips (Georgia and Maryland). Lots of time outside, lots of games, and very little productive a perfect summertime :) 

We did get a little yard work done though! Our neighbors were showing us up with their beautiful little changes to their yard so we had to make sure we weren't bringing the whole street down. 

First, the boys got some flowers for their playhouse window boxes. 

And we replaced two of our chickens that we're killed by the skunk. These two new ones are Maran hens, a black one and a splash one. They're 1.5 years old and lay these beautiful speckled dark brown eggs! We've had 6 eggs so far and are loving it! I definitely need to get a plastic egg compartment for the fridge soon. Anyway, the black one is Raven and the splash one is Splash. We're super original around here obviously. 

But our neighbors call them Cluckie and Dark Meat. And they're right, Splash is by far the noisiest one of all five hens and she totally rules the roost. Generally everyone is getting along pretty well and roosting together happily at night. 

Unfortunately 3 of the kids have come down with colds and so there has been much clinginess, whining, and sleeping. Poor Tahlia fell asleep on big sister twice this week! 

Luckily she seemed to be feeling okay on 4th of July and had fun in the beautiful weather. It was about 70 degrees all day! 

Things are still a bit stressful around here and all our nice days have sort of been in spite of the fact that my husband's church is considering terminating his 'call' (contract-ish thing for pastors) because of budget concerns and apparently his insistence on keeping the baptismal font front and center. Don't even ask me to explain that one because I don't understand it.

 In any case, the budget issues have people freaking out and so instead we get to freak out about our personal budget. He's the breadwinner and, though I'd be willing to go back to teaching, I'm not certified in Pennsylvania so we'd have to move for me to work. Also, clergy aren't eligible for unemployment so we would be at the mercy of the church's severance package decisions. It's all very up in the air right now and we're not sure what's going to happen. 

In the meantime we just wait. And hope we don't need to say goodbye to good neighbors and beautiful weather just yet. 

If you want to say some prayers say a prayer for my friend Rhianna and her husband, as he was just laid off from his pastor job with no warning and a too-small severance package a few weeks ago. They definitely need him to find a new job soon, they've had a rough few years financially and medically.